WHOOO!

Hey again, Intarwubs! I’m back again, isn’t that surprising! No deep content this time, but I found a cool thing that I want to share with you. I am reading the Encomium Emmae Reginae right now, which is a hugely hilarious piece of propaganda.  They should show this to high school kids, instead of WWI recruitment posters. So much more fun.

Observe:

“After the death of his father, Knutr attempted to retain the sceptre of the kingdom, but he was quite unequal to so doing, for the number of his followers was insufficient… the king […] ordered a fleet to be got ready for him, not because he was fleeing afraid of the harsh outcome of war, but in order to consult his brother Haraldr, the king of the Danes, about so weighty a matter.” (E.E.R, book II item I)

but, immediately following this explanation of why Knut is wise and not cowardly for leaving England, we then get an explanation of why Thorkell the Tall was brave and heroic for chosing the opposite course:

“… Thorkell, whom we have already mentioned as a military commander, observed that the land was most excellent and chose to take up his residence in so fertile a country, and make peace with the natives, rather than to return home like one who had, in the end, been expelled.” (E.E.R, book II item I)

There are, of course, good reasons for this, and for the fact that the encomiast does his very best to gloss over Thorkell’s alliance with AEthelred at this stage, and so on. He’s engaged in the praise of Emma, Cnut, and everyone who ended up on their side in the end. Some of these people were on the other side at various points in time, but they’re still all superlatively excellent. This results in some humourous contradictions, like the one just above.

Along with all the amusements, I just found this description of Cnut:

“He became a friend and intimate of churchmen, to such a degree that he seemed to bishops to be a brother bishop for his maintenance of perfect religion, to monks also not a secular but a monk for the temperance of his life of most humble devotion. He diligently defended wards and widows, he supported orphans and strangers, he suppressed unjust laws and those who applied them, he exalted and cherished justice and equity, he built and dignified churches, he loaded priests and the clergy with dignities, he enjoined peace and unanimity upon his people…” (E.E.R book II item 19)

O blogosphere, you have no idea how happy this makes me. Just look at the Wulfstanian tenor of that passage!

Oh, I don’t believe it for a moment. Cnut was a rampaging egomaniac, and I certainly don’t buy all this humble devotion business. HOWEVER, what this does show is that Wulfstan’s description of the ideal king had sunk in, well enough that Cnuts wife would want Cnut painted as a king in that mould.

The first sentence I’m not so sure about- king as brother bishop and fellow monk. I know I’ve read something like it somewhere, but it might have been AElfric rather than Wulfstan. The defence of ‘wards and widows’ is a priority which crops up all over Wulfstan’s work, though- laws, Institutes, homilies, you name it. The emphasis on promoting justice and stamping out injustice is all over Wulfstan’s work- often expressed in repetitive and parallel structures like this. And peace and unanimity reminds me awfully of Wulfstan’s injunctions to the synod regarding their common dealings.

The short form of this is, O Internet:

Rejoice! For I may have something to say in the third chapter of my thesis, after all!

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5 Responses to “WHOOO!”

  1. B. Hawk Says:

    Nice parallels you’ve drawn between Wulfstan’s work and this passage about Cnut. I think you’re right to be skeptical, but I like how you’ve pointed out how Wulfstan’s writings and ideals may have been a major influence on the Encomium Emmae Reginae. There’s probably not a lot of argument to raise against the idea that Wulfstan’s works could have been an influence here, and in thinking about further support for this, I wonder about the location of the composition of EER, and which Wulfstan ms(s) may have been at the same place at the same time in the 11C. Is there any way to know these things for sure?

  2. highlyeccentric Says:

    Hah. I’m not really all that interested in the sort of King Cnut *was*, I’m interested in the sort of thing he and his allies claimed him to be, since I’m messing around in ideals more than facts anyway.

    As for the MS question, I don’t know, but I shall have a poke and see what I can find out 🙂

  3. Jonathan Jarrett Says:

    I can’t add anything to the scholarship, but it’s good to see you back online here, and those are the most excellent penguins I have seen anywhere on the Internet.

  4. highlyeccentric Says:

    😀 It’s good too be back. Not sure how much I’ll be around, but I am back, and it’s good to see people again 🙂

    I’m glad you like my penguins. I think they’re from Happy Feet, but I wouldn’t swear on it.

  5. april Says:

    yay for thesis substance.
    Our favourite royal hedgehog was also good with the widows. In fact, he wæs cystig wædlum and wydewum swa swa fæder. Not to mention that he mid welwillendnysse gewissode his folc symle to rihtwisnysse, and þam reþum styrde. Nice and justicey.
    That’s Aelfy, not Wulfstan. Still…
    XXapes


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